Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Gaming Edition

By April 27, 2018Uncategorized

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory that describes the psychological development we move through as we grow and evolve.


“Maslow used the terms “physiological”, “safety”, “belonging and love”, “esteem”, “self-actualization”, and “self-transcendence” to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through.” (’s_hierarchy_of_needs)

But what if we use it on the world of gaming?

If we examine the history of game development against humanity’s psychological needs, we see some interesting similarities.

Let’s take that famous pyramid and its 5 steps (physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization) and compare it to the history of video game development.


Early games focused on basic survival.  Jumping hurdles, turtle shells, and other challenges, to make it to the next level.  Think of the first Mario Brothers games.


As games became more complex, they grew depth and character, with motivations, and story lines.  It’s a learning curve, like Legend of Zelda or Super Metroid.


With the advent of the Internet, socialization of games evolved.  Players could convene from anywhere on the planet, to join forces, to battle together.  Multiplayer, co-op and MMO gaming changed the way the gaming audience and global market played and consumed.  Think Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, or other online games.



With socialization comes the desire to share and compare progress and achievements.  Achievements are a way to understand and change one’s position in the world (of Warcraft).   IRL, you have a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.  But in the World (of Warcraft), you have the Flaming Sword of Truth.



The next psychological step is creation, and it’s coming down the pipeline.  When players become the storytellers and worldbuilders, the game becomes theirs.  Games like Civilization or SimCity offer basic creation and worldbuilding as part of the gameplay.  Other games including Garry’s Mod and Little Big Planet give players tools to dabble in creation.

A game offering true creation is not far off.  Think of a cross between No Man’s Sky, SimCity, and old-school Dungeons & Dragons.   And when it comes out, the gaming market will change again.  Will we encounter advertising campaigns in our new virtual world?  Will market research firms have focus groups held within the games?


Ready Player One, anyone?


Very exciting times we live in!